First, I have to admit I borrowed this title from one of my fellow writers on Silicon Valley Moms blog. She wrote about her 75-year old Mom with emphysema, who's on oxygen but still feisty, loving and full of life. Oh yeah, and still smoking. Well, that gives you food for thought about addiction, doesn't it? One more little thing to be thankful for this holiday season: an addiction-free life.
(We recently heard Martin Sheen give a lecture about life, activism, family, addiction and about a million other topics. His painfully honest tales of his own struggles with alcoholism and his son Charlie Sheen's battle with drug addiction were stirring. I still think of how Charlie Sheen thanked him for saving his life after intervening and getting him into rehab. His Dad insisted that all he did was help him wake up and see how bad he had gotten. He didn't want his son putting the responsibility for saving his life onto anyone else because he knew that if he fell off the wagon, he could also blame other people and not take responsibility. Good lesson. File that away under "Scary things I hope not to have to think about when my kids are older".)
The true survivor I'm thankful for right now is my Dad. He's 65 years old and almost totally disabled from Parkinson's Disease, which he has had since he was 30. You don't see many people who have had P.D. for 35 years. It just doesn't happen very often. So at 65, my Dad is a wreck. The medication he takes works against some other meds he takes for psychiatric problems. He only gets very brief windows now of relief from the "frozen-ness" of Parkinson's as well as the severe tremors. His mind is a chaos of confusion and dementia, with a large dose of paranoia thrown in for good measure. And yet, he still makes cute little one-liner jokes whenever he can. He still loves chocolate shakes and pumpkin muffins. He appreciates going to his weekly exercise class. He loves it when I bring my preschoolers to visit him at his nursing home and always calls them, affectionately, the "small bugs". And he's still just grateful to be alive.
Every time he needs a new medical procedure, I get scared for him. Scared that in as bad a shape as he is in, he might not make it this time. Yesterday, he had to have 5 teeth extracted and even though I knew he would be o.k., I still got scared. He seems so frail and helpless locked in his dopamine-deprived body, unable to move so much of the time. But he came through it with flying colors. He even asked my Mom if he looked "pretty" afterward with his new teeth. And you know what, he did. He looked good. He's a survivor. So there's one more thing to be grateful for at Thanksgiving. The survivors in our lives who amaze us with their resilience and will to live.